10 Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur for First-Timers From Shopping to Food!

10 Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur for First-Timers

A guide on what to do in Malaysia’s capital.

When you think of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, the typical image in mind is probably the iconic KLCC Twin Towers and KL Tower. However, this city actually offers much more than that! If this is your first time visiting KL, let me, a local, tell you the 10 best things to do in Kuala Lumpur: a gorgeous city and a true cultural melting pot.

Also read: 21 Dos and Don’ts in Malaysia That Travellers Should Know About

1. Walk around Petaling Street

walk around Petaling Street as one of the things to do in KL

Image credit: Dave Yap

Petaling Street has been a bustling shopping area for many years offering goods like clothes, shoes, bags, and locals’ favourite food. That is why, if you walk here today, you’ll not only find locals but also tourists shopping for goods and hunting for delicious food. Put simply, this place is best for bargaining and filling your tummy.

Although Petaling Street carries the name ‘Chinatown in Malaysia’ and offers mostly traditional Chinese dishes, the area also has stalls like Mamak and unique cafes. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out Kwai Chai Hong that’s only a few streets away; the nostalgic design will bring you back to Chinatown in the 60s, and there will be different art installations and exhibitions here from time to time!

Pro tip: For night owls and alcohol lovers, there are also many hidden bars in this area, like The Attic Bar. Come here for locally-inspired cocktails with breathtaking views at night. Another must-visit KL bar is PS150, which gets livelier as the night goes on.

2. Visit the KLCC Twin Towers

Image credit: Esmonde Yong

Speaking of things to do in Kuala Lumpur, there’s a reason why KLCC Twin Towers stands as the city’s number one attraction. The towers are the second tallest building in Malaysia, and are a captivating sight to behold whether it’s morning or at night. When you’re here, be sure to visit Suria KLCC, a shopping centre under the Twin Towers. Make a pit stop at the esplanade just outside to bask in stunning views of the building. 

At around 7pm daily, the Symphony Lake Water Show — a water fountain show featuring music and colourful lights — will be showcased at the esplanade. On top of that, if you love exercising, go for a jog at the KLCC park with lush greenery and ample amenities. The best part? All of this is yours to enjoy — for free!

3. Take a stroll at the River of Life

Image credit (L-R): Muhammad Faiz Zulkeflee; Cecelia Chang

Taking a stroll along the River of Life is one of the must-do activities in KL. It was initially an urban restoration project; since its completion, it became not only one of the most well-known tourist attractions in the metropolis but also recognised as one of the prettiest waterfronts in the world!

The KL attraction is also at the convergence of two major rivers in Klang Valley (Selangor and Kuala Lumpur): the Klang River and the Gombak River. There are riverside cafes, biking paths, and dancing fountains along the river banks. At night, the extravagant LED light transforms the place into a mesmerising indigo blue, making it very distinctive. 

4. Spend time with loved ones at Dataran Merdeka

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

The Dataran Merdeka (aka the Independence Square) is a historical landmark in Malaysia. The Independence Day Parade is held here annually; on normal nights, tourists and locals alike come here to spend time with their loved ones, making it another one of the best things to do in KL.

Plus, the square is located right beside the River of Life. Here, you can enjoy kite flying, skateboarding, or even a simple picnic. Its historical design and enchanting lights at night also make it a picture-perfect spot. 

Pro tip: Avoid coming here in the morning, as the roads at this time of day are only open to vehicles and closed to pedestrians.

5. Shop til you drop at KL’s famous malls

places to go in KL: the shopping malls

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

One thing Malaysia never lacks is shopping malls. In fact, within Kuala Lumpur itself, there are already more than 10 malls! Some famous ones include Pavilion KL, Lot 10, Midvalley Megamall (The Gardens Mall), Suria KLCC, and the newly opened Pavilion Bukit Jalil and Lalaport

Shopping at these malls is definitely one of the activities in KL that people enjoy the most because of the range of products and services — from affordable to luxurious — offered. Not to mention, with the mouth-watering delicacies available, you won’t leave with your bags or tummy empty-handed!

6. Explore the underwater world at Aquaria KLCC

Speaking of Kuala Lumpur attractions, why not spend a day at Aquaria KLCC to explore the lovely underwater world? Besides, if you’re in KL with your partner, this KL attraction is a wonderful place for a date. 

KL’s largest oceanarium is 60,000 square feet and showcases 5,000 land-bound and aquatic creatures. If you are a certified diver, join the Dive with Shark program for an ultimate adrenaline rush of meeting a real-life shark. There is also a Sleep with Shark program specially designed for children!

7. Hop on a thrilling adventure experience

For adrenaline junkies, one of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur is to hop on a thrilling adventure experience at the array of indoor and outdoor theme parks. For instance, District 21, Berjaya Times Square Theme Park, Superpark Malaysia, and Jump Street Asia Trampoline Park are popular indoor adventure parks.

For those who love a breath of fresh air outdoors, spend your day at Escape Petaling Jaya, Sunway Lagoon, or Gamuda Cove. If you don’t want to go too far away from the city centre, try going on a Tower Walk 100 at the KL Tower, a rather new attraction that allows you to be 100 feet above ground overlooking the city from a glass platform!

Note: Some of the theme parks mentioned above are in Selangor, but they are only less than a 30-minute drive from the city centre.

Also read: 15 Outdoor Activities in Malaysia for Thrill-Seekers to Jump Into

8. Go on a date at a museum or gallery

Are you someone that appreciates art? If yes, then go on a date at the National Art Gallery. Recently reopened after the pandemic, the National Art Gallery has three storeys, no entrance fees, and free parking. There will be different art collections from time to time, and some of the exhibitions, like Gerak Rupa, greatly showcases the beauty and culture of Malaysia.

Muzium Negara (National Gallery) is another place to go for an exciting and educational afternoon. The museum houses four exhibition galleries, namely the Prehistory Gallery, Malay Kingdoms Gallery, Colonial Era Gallery and Malaysia Today — all of which feature Malaysia’s history and rich cultural diversity. The entrance fee for Malaysian citizens is RM2 (~S$0.62), and RM5 (~S$1.56) for non-Malaysian citizens.

9. Take stunning pictures for your Instagram feed

beautiful Kuala Lumpur attractions

Image credit (L-R): Lloyd Alozie; Nazarizal Mohammad

Kuala Lumpur is also abundant with ravishing attractions and Instagrammable spots that will add a hint of colour to your feed. Visit places like the Batu Caves, one of the most famous Hindu shrines in Malaysia dedicated to Lord Murugan featuring 272 rainbow steps to the top; and Jalan Alor, a night market filled with colourful street art. 

Pusat Sains Negara (National Science Centre), The Linc, and Saloma Link Bridge are also some famous photo-taking spots among locals. One thing all these places have in common? They’re all vibrant and spectacular, offering you a memorable, dazzling sight. 

Also read: 16 Instagrammable Places in Malaysia: Where to go, Eat and Stay in KL and Klang!

10. Remember one word: FOOD!

Image credit: Cecelia Chang

Lastly, something that will make you want to come back to KL again and again: the delicious food. A true foodie haven, Malaysia thrives with tasty eateries at every corner. In the KL metropolis itself, there already are many must-visit food spots. For first-timers, try food hunting at Petaling Street, Pudu, Ampang, Bangsar, and Cheras.

Speaking from the heart of a true Malaysian who lives only 20 minutes away from KL, don’t miss out on locals’ favourite dishes like Nasi Lemak, Char Kuey Teow, Roti Canai, Claypot Chicken Rice, Hokkien Mee, and an authentic Kopitiam breakfast like semi-boiled eggs with pepper and Roti Bakar. We guarantee that you’ll love the food so much!

Also read: Where to Travel in Malaysia: Top Destinations From Every State in the Country

There you go: a list of 10 fun things to do in Kuala Lumpur if you’re here for the first time. Here’s to hoping that you’ll enjoy your trip, and that it’ll be memorable enough for you to visit again!

About Author

Cecelia Chang
Cecelia Chang

Born in a new village in Selangor, Malaysia, Cecelia loves three things in life: Good food, good views, and good deals. She also enjoys exploring new places and experiencing new things on her travels.